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"O miserable of happy!” | Kathleen Dimmick

Red Bull's online benefit reading of John Miltons's Paradise Lost will premiere LIVE at 7:30 PM EDT on Monday, April 12. With its exquisite language and Shakespearean scale, John Milton’s epic poem explores the fundamental questions of the human experience. Dubbed "an immorality play" by adaptor and director Michael Barakiva, this presentation will be presented in two parts:

Part 1 : THE FALL OF LUCIFER will premiere LIVE on Monday, April 12. A recording of that livestream will be available until 7:00 PM EST on Friday, April 16 – then it disappears.

Part 2 : EVE AND ADAM will premiere LIVE on Monday, April 26. A recording of that livestream will be available until 7:00 PM EST on Friday, April 30 – then it disappears.


Part I of adaptor/director Michael Barakiva’s adaptation of Paradise Lost opens with God’s Anointment of his Son, an act that so consumes Lucifer, “most beautiful among the angels,” with envy that he gives birth to Sin out of the left side of his head, (recalling Athena’s birth and a dark pre-figuring of the creation of Eve). The War in Heaven follows, the Rebel Angels are banished to Hell and Lucifer becomes Satan; God then creates the Earth and all living creatures, including Adam, the first human. Barakiva chose to structure the events of the poem chronologically, creating a dramatic progression that intensifies the profound thematic antitheses of the poem. The contrasting movements in the play continue, with striking juxtapositions: the birth of Eve followed by Sin’s ghastly account of giving birth to Death (Satan’s son); Satan awaking in hell, then Adam in Eden; the Fall of man and the triumph of Sin and Death, followed by the ultimate promise of redemption -- the hope of eternal life through the sacrifice of the Son of God for man’s Original Sin. Satan, with his power to change shape, becomes not only the Serpent, the “subtlest of all creatures,” but also a Cherub and a Toad, and embodies the most powerful oppositions: “Evil, be thou my good.” Momentarily “abstracted from his own evil” by Eve’s innocence and beauty, he reminds himself:

What hither brought us, hate, not love; nor hope Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste Of pleasure, but all pleasure to destroy, Save what is in destroying, other joy To me is lost.

When Satan offers the forbidden fruit to Eve (both destroyer and giver of life), we encounter the essential mystery of the poem -- the nature of good and evil -- and ask, along with Satan:

Or will God incense his ire For such a petty trespass? and not praise Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain Of death denounced, whatever thing death be, Deterred not from achieving what might lead To happier life, knowledge of good and evil; Of good, how just? of evil, if what is evil Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?

In 2013, Barakiva and a group of actors presented a day-long, concert reading of his adaptation of the poem at a church in Brooklyn. Two meals were included, with spectators dining alongside actors, who had prepared the food, creating a communal and sensual beginning to the journey of this adaptation of Milton’s great poem. And the theater, with its physical immediacy and inherent capacity for metamorphosis, offers the perfect instrument to engage with what the critic Frank Kermode calls “the sensuous logic of the poem” [Eve eats Death] that moves between “delight and woe … the fall into darkness and disorder, the return to light and order.” Kathleen Dimmick Dramaturg

On Thursday, April 26, join an interactive discussion of Paradise Lost with adaptor and director Michael Barakiva, scholar Kathleen Dimmick, and members of the companies. Register Now


Kathleen Dimmick is a dramaturg and director based in NYC. She served as resident dramaturg at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where she worked on classic and contemporary plays. She has directed a variety of new plays, including premieres by Quincy Long for the Atlantic Theater Company, Portland Playhouse, and ASK Theatre in Los Angeles, and served as resident director for New Dramatists. As production dramaturg, she has worked with directors JoAnne Akalaitis, Robert Woodruff, and Garland Wright. MFA, Yale School of Drama.


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